In all of my years as a nutritionist, alcohol just may be the topic I’m asked about most often. Most people I meet aren’t willing to give it up, but they also know that alcohol can be a slippery slope since it contains calories (600 in a 12 oz pina colada) and can act as an appetite stimulant and lower inhibitions — a recipe for overeating. So I’m often asked, "Is there a way to imbibe without packing on the pounds?" Well, the first step is to lighten up your drink. Each of these "recipes" is my lighter version of a classic, more nutrient-rich than the original, and includes no added sugar or artificial sweetener:
Slim Vodka Seltzer — 100 Calories
1 shot vodka
¾ cup all natural lemon lime seltzer
Lemon & lime wedges
Fill glass with ice. Add shot then seltzer and garnish with fruit.
Bloody Mary Light — 175 calories
1 shot vodka
1 cup 100% spicy vegetable juice
1 large celery stalk
Fill glass with ice. Add vodka and juice and garnish with celery stick.
Slender Sangria — 185 calories
5 oz wine
½ cup 100% fruit juice blend (like cranberry/blueberry/grape)
¼ cup diced apple and oranges
Stir juice into wine. Pour over ice and garnish with fruit.
Pina Skimlata — 220 calories
1 shot rum
½ cup (4 oz) 100% pineapple juice
¼ cup skim or plain organic soy milk
¼ cup frozen banana slices
Fresh pineapple wedges
Add rum, juice, milk, banana and ice to blender. Whip until smooth. Pour into glass and garnish with fresh pineapple
The second key to not overdoing it is moderation: the recommendations for alcohol intake are no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men. One drink equals 1 shot of 80 proof distilled spirits, 5 oz of wine or 12 oz of light beer. And no, you’re not supposed to "save them up." If you have zero drinks Sunday through Thursday, that doesn't mean you can have seven over the weekend. If you tend to overdo it, try to scale back. More than moderate drinking can increase the risk of liver cirrhosis, high blood pressure, and certain cancers, not to mention potentially expand your waistline. So cheers to enjoying a drink, but keeping it in check.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.